Movie Review

SUICIDE SQUAD ALBUM REVIEW: RUN, DO NOT WALK TO THE WILD SIDE
August 17, 2016 6:37 pm

 

Whether you loved the colorful action or hated the bland villains and plot, Suicide Squad is out and strong opinions are flying everywhere. Rotten Tomatoes is famous for in depth/no shame ratings of movies, their Critic Score stands at an abysmal 26% rating while the fans score is at 69%. This split on the movie either being horrible or mostly good is everywhere. But with all this controversy over the film, nobody can deny that the soundtrack is amazing. This magic mixtape of artists and styles is impressive, creative and in reality is far better than the movie.

I would describe the attitude of the album as heroically rough around the edges. Just like the villains gone hero in the movie, the songs have a dark intensity while being oddly uplifting and easy to relate to. The album is basically split into two song types: reflective and slow or fast and powerful.

Starting with Skrillex’s and Rick Ross’s Purple Lamborghini could not have been a better choice. This song seemed underwhelming at first for me, but the more I listened the more I saw their subtle teamwork to make a brutal dubstep/hip-hop/rap song. “Wreak Havoc” by Skylar Grey is the perfect punch to the face pop song and Grimes brings her electronic magic right after it. The second to last track is Panic! At The Disco’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which is obviously not better than the original, but comes close in reality. From the similarity in the voice to the modernized rock section with added emphasis in the orchestra parts, Panic! At The Disco does it incredibly.

As for the mellow side of the album, “Sucker For Pain” slows it down with a more personal song that speaks the the darker sides of people, but in a good way. With Imagine Dragons, Logic, Lil Wayne, X Ambassadors, Ty Dolla $ign and Wiz Khalifa all packed into this song, I was genuinely surprised how good it turned out. Twenty One Pilots continues the slower and deeper reflection tones from movie with the odd and beautiful “Heathens”. “Gangsta” and “Know Better” by Kehlani and Kevin Gates respectively are the weakest songs on the album, but they’re not bad, just not up to par with the others. The last track is “I Started a Joke” by ConfidentialMX featuring Becky Hanson, and this song is not that complex when it comes to instruments or vocals, but that’s the best part of it. It starts slightly innocent sounding and then gets darker and more grim as it goes, a true black rose: dauntingly beautiful.

This album is awesome, but there are flaws for sure. Some songs are sound like filler or too geared toward pop culture appeal, but overall it’s worth your time. Being a compilation album with so many artists, I’m impressed that it turned out to be so good. To summarize all this, I would honestly recommend skipping the movie and watching it when it comes out on Netflix or RedBox and then using that ticket money to go buy this album, totally worth it.

 

MY DAY WITH SPENT WITH JARED AND THE JOKER
August 4, 2016 11:22 am

Hours before I was set to meet Jared Leto, staring in the highly anticipated Suicide Squad, at an Italian restaurant in the West Village I was awoken out of a dead sleep by a neon-masked jester giggling as he poured ice cold water all over me. I demanded to know what he was doing here, to which he responded, “The Joker will see you now,” in a high pitched cadence. 

The jester then proceeded to take a trumpet out of his satchel with the word “Chaos” bedazzled on it. He masterfully played the tune of Reveille with the brass when suddenly, Jared Leto himself popped on my mattress, cackling sisterly. He was dressed head to toe in his much buzzed about Joker getup, a move that hinted he was still very much in character. Ever respectful of an artist’s craft, I gladly played along. “Oh no, it’s the Joker,” I yelled. “What did I do to ever deserve a visit from anarchy’s son himself?!”

Although the Academy Award winner was deeply immersed in character, I couldn’t help but notice him give a slight wink of appreciation for going along with him on this thespian journey. Which is why, out of respect, I played the helpless and hysterical victim for Leto and his unnamed assistant in mayhem while they attached alligator clamps to my nipples. I still can not decide what was more electric that morning: Leto’s performance or the car battery he used to shock me.

Following a few more downright twisted acts of torture, the My So Called Life star blindfolded me, stuffed me in a burlap sack and tossed me into the back of his car. He drove and drove. Each erratic swerve gave birth to a new bruise. Sweat accumulated onto my shirt so immensely that it began to push down on my chest every time I would try to breathe. The only thing that kept me sane was shouting the questions I had initially planned for our interview. Leto pulled over at one point, only to throw a stink bomb in there with me when I asked him what working with Viola Davis was like. After that, I passed out from the astounding commitment he had to such a sinister character.

joker-suicide-quad-rick-ross-skrillex-purple-lamborghiniWhen I came to, I found myself strapped to a chair in the restaurant I had previously made reservations for. I couldn’t help but smirk at the 30 Seconds To Mars front-man’s demented attention to detail for this sly caper he’s orchestrated. Upon noticing I was up, he bellowed “good morning, Sunshine” loud enough to cause the entire restaurant to look over to our table. The jester was summoned by Leto and asked for him to fetch my ‘present’. After rummaging around his chaos satchel for a little while, he took out a plastic butt with wide circular hole in between cheeks and a clock attached to it counting down from 6 minutes. Leto thanked him by petting him under his chin like a dog, to which the jester stamped his leg up and down repeatedly.

The waiter came to take our order. I asked for a Caesar salad with ranch dressing on the side. Leto asked for a hot bowl of madness. Seamlessly, the jester then took the waiter’s pepper grinder and immediately began playing to its phallic nature. The comedic brilliance was upped when Leto dropped to his knees and confessed how been longing to taste some flavorful wood.  The chemistry between the two was palpable for everyone.  As we were being escorted out of the restaurant by the manager, the countdown butt I was ordered to hold hit zero. Confetti sprang out of the butt’s hole, landing on someone’s pasta primavera.

Back in the trunk, I gnawed out of the newly wrapped tape around my mouth to thank Jared for such a breathtaking dinner. To have front row seats to his performance-art tour de force inspired me in ways I never thought imaginable. His brilliance will not be forgotten. The jester took a power saw to the backseat in order to create a hole to the trunk. He jutted his head into the hole and spat on me.

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Once I felt myself being tossed from the trunk to my front lawn, I knew the interview was over. But before he tailed off into the sunset, Leto whispered into my ear about his gratitude for being granted the opportunity to let someone in on his process. It was easy to see that this role would be nothing without late Heath Ledger’s work in the iconic Dark Knight and how working with Viola Davis and the entire Suicide Squad was a dream come true. “We’re all lucky enough to have the greatest jobs in the world and we worked tirelessly to make sure what we were marking would be loved by all who saw it. It was a collaborative effort all the way through.”

Before I got the opportunity to thank him, Jared Leto was back in his Jokermobile. His jester, having just cherry bombed my mailbox, ran in through the window of the moving vehicle to make the getaway appear as wildly slapdash as possible. Leto’s feral laughter was heard as he and his jester tossed molotov cocktails at all of my neighbors’ houses. Despite the claims of arson, the only fire I saw that day came from Leto’s unflinching dedication to authenticity.

Suicide Squad hits theaters this Friday, August 5th. Find out more about the chaotic group hereget tickets here and check out more Jared Leto here.

LOWER EAST SIDE FILM FESTIVAL RECAP AND WINNERS
June 20, 2016 6:03 pm

This year was my first year attending the Lower East Side Film Festival, and I was not disappointed. Amidst the whirlwind of independent festivals that happen throughout New York and cities around the world, it’s refreshing to attend one that holds onto the quintessential essence of being low key, and highbrow. I initially found out about the festival while mindlessly staring into space towards a wall while waiting for the beloved R train somewhere in Brooklyn in the wee hours of the night. It took a few minutes of gazing into mental nothingness before my eyes started to actually focus and realize that I was staring at a poster for the 2016 LESFF. Having always held an indefatigable love of film and art festivals, I took a picture for a later google search and was able to attend and speak with some prominent people who represent what this festival had to offer.

The winners of the festival were released last Thursday night as part of the closing night party in which most of the writers, filmmakers, producers, and curators attended to celebrate. The panel of judges who announced the winners included Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), casting director & producer Cindy Tolan (“Straight Outta Compton,”), Steve Farneth (Cinetic Media), Raul Castillo (HBO series “Looking” member LABryinth Theatre).

Among the winners were:

-Best Feature film: Americana (Written & Directed by Zachary Shedd)

-Best Live Action Short film: Killer (Written & Directed by Matt Kazman)

-Best of Fest – The LESFF Prix D’Or: Art of the Prank (Written & Directed by Andrea Marini)

-LESFF Audience Award: The Babymooners (Written & Directed by Shaina Feinberg & Chris Manley)

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The festival started 6 years ago in a storefront on Norfolk St with a cramped space, holding about 30 folding chairs and a pull down screen creating a makeshift theatre space. The landlord of that space was acquainted with the 4-pack of now festival directors and allowed them to try to make something of the tight storefront space for a month- the inception of the low key fest. It’s always refreshing to hear stories of growth; people who started out tiny and local and have gained the recognition to become what they are now. Roxy Hunt, one of the directors, briefly walked me through their humble beginnings:

We started in 2011 with very humble beginnings…It sold out every single night…we started handing out free booze and popcorn and everyone was forced to sit on top of each other because the space was that small, but that created the energy for it. The other 3 directors [Shannon Walker, Damon Cardasis, Tony Castle] and myself were the ones sweeping up every night at the storefront the first year, watching a mouse run across the room. We just kept it going, and now we obviously have a lot more help and we’ve expanded quite a bit but we try to keep it approachable. 

I attended a couple of the short films series, films that offer encapsulating stories and perspectives in a time frame made for those who fear the commitment of a feature. I hold a strong love for truly well-made short films since they offer such a beautifully told (usually) and unpredictable tale serving as a respite from normal life. It allows people to immerse themselves in truly unique, peculiar and relatable narratives.

I have a fascination with petty crime because to me you identify with it way more than, like, an ”Ocean’s Eleven” heist with like demolition experts and such. I feel way more people have been tempted to do things like seeing a cash register open in a bodega and just reaching over. Even though you wouldn’t do it, you would think briefly like ‘wow I could really get this money.’ It’s a relatable petty crime.

We had a delivery boy who would come over, a wimpy guy who carried a backpack full of treasure, that my buddy Trevor Wallace and I, we had the idea that it would be kind of easy to…maybe rob. We talked about it, and were like we probably shouldn’t do it, but we could make a movie about it.

Weston Razooli, writer, co-producer, director, and actor of Jolly Boy Friday.

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There was also the fair share of discomfort that every artist knows all too well. Faiyaz Jafri, director, writer and producer of “This Ain’t Disneyland” created this 6 minute film as a reflective piece of the ‘juxtaposition of the collapse of the Twin Towers and Disney. An incredibly well-done film, the animated display showed imagery that was initially confusing and uncomfortable, while shedding some light on person’s perspective of how they experienced the tragedy.

I was in NY when it happened. I experienced it right from my apartment right around the corner here and it pretty much fucked me up badly for a couple years. I felt a little embarrassed about how much it affected me considering that there are places in the world where that kind of stuff happens everyday. I sort of needed to tell my own story in my own style. I was commissioned to do an audio/visual piece that was projected in downtown Denver. I thought it was kind of a fitting thing to put this story far far away from New York and so I figured it’s the time to make the movie, that’s why I made this film…. I usually get the same reaction as here; everyone is just a little quiet, like they don’t know how to deal with it. I get a lot of “WTF” like what were you thinking.

“WTF” was indeed my reaction… at least for the first minute or so. As someone who was also living in NY when 9/11 happened, I was not at a total loss for words for very long. I am all too familiar with how much the attack fucked up people in the Western world, let alone those who were here to witness firsthand. The film included images of tall black and grey buildings, identical to those of the twin towers, crumbling to their demise while being shot from different angles. While the black smoke filled the aqua green background, dozens of reindeers are seen falling to their own demise as well, accompanied by giant Mickey Mouse-like figurines. When asked about the relation of the towers to Disneyland, Jafri said

To me Disney land has that wholesome, Americana, 50s ideal (scene) in the United States. It also represents the mediocrity of how everyone tries to please everyone and this idea of an ideal world that totally doesn’t exist and I think it kind of led to eventually what happened in September 11 and how the American dream doesn’t exist anymore. I use the Disney references… as visual shorthand to tell the story.

Props to keeping it real. Check out some photos of the event below!

Written by Annie Paul 

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SHUGS AND FATS REMIXES HIPSTER AND HIJABI
April 20, 2016 3:26 pm

Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz are changing the game of comedy on a whole new level. Taking the young, white, hipster shows that we all know and love so much, and contributing another with a new shade of hilarious is just what “new-Brooklyn” centric television (or web-vision) needed. In their web series Shugs and Fatswe are given a glimpse into the everyday life of roommates Shugufta (Shugs) and Fatima (Fats) as they propel through their days dipping their hands in the progressive, snake person lifestyle while simultaneously having influence from their traditional upbringing. Though neither women are practicing muslims in real life, the two characters wear hijabs in the show, revolutionizing the way people look at muslim women and the assumption of how they live their lives.

After a glorious win at the Gotham Independent Film Awards this past November, Manzoor and Vaz have overtaken prestigious ground. They recently premiered season 3 of Shugs and Fats last week at part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca N.O.W. You can watch all hilarious episodes at their site here. 

When “Shugs and Fats” was first conceptualized, how did you expect the response to look? 

Nad: I didn’t have any expectations of how it was going to be received. I knew that I loved the characters and the idea, and that was enough to make it and move forward. Of course, I did think that if I think it’s this funny, then other people would also enjoy the content – but never I expected this!

Rad: And that is how it always is no matter what I am working on. The projects I least expect to work out will pop and then on the other hand when I think ‘oh we have a big name collaborator – this will make waves’ and then it never does!

What is most symbolic about this new representation of Muslim women in New York? 

Nad: The fact that it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world! I think that’s one of the reasons we were drawn to creating this. Because of the exiting stereotypes about women – that are mostly still determined by how a woman looks. We wanted to flip that, and show that regardless of appearance women are complicated, and nuanced, AND funny! Also I think the hijabs appearing in Brooklyn is looking at exploring the immigrant experience, and how we try and reconcile our cultures and traditions with the new climate in which we live.

Rad: I agree with Nadia. Obviously! I haven’t seen this type of content anywhere else yet I see women in Hijab all over New York so why aren’t they on screen?

Have you received backlash for this bold yet awesome project? 

Nad: Not really. For the most part people love it. We do have people asking why we [play] the characters in hijabs, and if our intention is to mock – which it is absolutely to NOT Do. But yes, we have definitely been in some intense conversations about the intention around this series, and we think about it all.

Rad: No, I think for the most part we have found an audience that is smart and appreciates the humor…although I don’t doubt that as the show gets more of a viewership we will encounter lots of different points of view that will not necessarily agree with our own – but that’s also partly the point of doing work like this – to allow different opinions to surface.

shugssWhat important message within the slapstick do you want people to truly understand when they watch Shugs and Fats? 

Nad: Simply, that they are 2 women, who are struggling with issues that all woman face. Whether it’s the struggle of being empowered in one’s sexuality, or finding self-acceptance – they are all the same issues that we deal with as humans. In spite of Shugs and Fats’ difference, their friendship is what allows them to grow and get stronger, and that’s a big part of the message. Female unity and friendship.

Rad: That you should never judge a book by its cover. Women, more than men, are subjected to that no matter who you are or what job you do. Hillary Clinton may be our next President, why do we care if she wears make-up or not? Its like when it comes to women we are always doing a one step forward two steps back kind of dance!

After winning the Gotham Independent Film Award, what other goals have you set for Shugs and Fats as it becomes more widely known?

Nad: We just launched season 3 on our YouTube channel, and we screened some episodes at the Tribeca Film festival – which was a total hoot. Currently, we are working on a pilot for the long form TV show. We are going to start pitching very soon, so are excited about that!

Rad: We are working on expanding the scope of our work and the first step is our work on a pilot episode for a TV show length series. I also think a movie – like an action-comedy type thing would be a great idea for these two characters. I would love for Melissa McCarthy to be in it with us!

Who are some other talented female comedians around the world that you think everyone should know about?

Nad: Ilana Glazer and Abby Jacobson are killing it, in terms of self-created female driven comedy. I also love what Samantha Bee is doing, taking the female perspective on the late night show is one thing the world needs right now.

Rad: Jessie Kahnweiler who writes a show called The Skinny on Refinery 29 is amazing. On so many levels. I can’t get enough of her level of honesty and commitment to the cause. She is like Lena Dunham but harder!

Do you envision the work of another writer/producer/actor when you create new episodes of Shugs and Fats? If so, who? What about them and their work do you think correlates with your own work? 

Nad: In terms of character work, I am definitely inspired by Ali G, and in terms of looking at the female perspective, all female comedy right now is inspiring to me.

Rad: AbFab, Broad City, even Golden Girls are all inspiring! Anything about female friendship really because that is so central to the themes we look at. As far as being out there and edgy go I think Ali G is a great model. We do live interviews and the outcome of those interviews are so like what would happen on his show!

Do you have any other shows or projects in production? 

Nad: We both have one-person shows that we are touring right now. Our background is live performance, so Rads is touring “Older, Angrier, Hairier and I am touring Burq Off!

Rad: I am also in the process of promoting my book ‘Unladylike, A Memoir’.

Written by Annie Paul

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TRIBECA REVIEW: FOLK HERO AND FUNNY GUY
April 19, 2016 5:55 pm

We all know him. The morbidly interesting guy who takes the every-day bullshit he deals with and sort of attempts to transform it into comedy for others. Unable to truly open up about his personal drama in order to be successful at this, Paul Scott (Alex Karpovsky) is a familiar character with an opportunity to change his life for the better and not taking it.

Jeff Grace’s feature debut Folk Hero and Funny Guy premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this past Sunday. Tribeca’s films are known and expected to behold a portrait of creative vision in film; unique perspectives on original stories told in a distinctive style that are always comforting, knowing that true filmic innovation still has a place to thrive. For Folk Hero however, it was hardly atypical. It’s reminiscent of those lovable road movies, like one of Karpovsky’s own, Red Flag, that have similar themes of seeking inspiration and breaking out of one’s comfort zone. Meredith Hagner gives a cool performance as Bryn, the local singer-songwriter who joins the boys on tour and becomes a true test to their friendship.

A temp worker who swims in the juvenile angst of his own misfortune, dumped by his beautiful fiance who seeks a more stable and fulfilling life, Paul is given the opportunity to find himself and explore the beautiful US of A with his longtime pal; simple-minded, sexy, blonde, moderately successful folk-rock musician, Jason Black (Wyatt Russell). Paul is brought on tour as a stand-up comic to open up each of Jason’s shows. He ditches his office job and goes with every intention of both finding a crowd that would laugh at his bad E-vite joke, and figuring out how he’s going to make it back to the top…not that he was ever at the top. The overwhelming urge to yell at him to “STFU” about that pathetic joke that no one will laugh at became redundant…however self-reflective. How often do we make excuses for rudimentary behavior so we can justify never having to change? Change is scary. It’s also necessary.

Although Jason seems like the air-headed rocker dude who just lives his life night by night, he almost ends up having a real depth to him. The engaged woman that he was apparently in love with sat him down and broke the truth; “You are only good for one night.” That could have a harsh affect on anyone, but it looks like Jason got out his sorry emotions in about 11 seconds, then went right back to being good for one night. Within those 11 seconds however, he was able to insult Bryn and piss off Paul to the point that Paul finally found some new material for his comedy. This of course, muddled together with realizing the extent of one’s potential, is what ultimately brought everyone to where they were meant to be.

Despite a few dull moments of predictability, Folk Hero and Funny Guy offers inspiring bites for those who could relate to Paul’s limbo state between wanting to thrive creatively, not giving a damn about boring responsibilities like his buddy Jason, and having to buckle down and get the dreaded 9-5. It’s a coming of age movie…for grown ups. “Desire, Hope, Hunger and Freedom” are what drives the three of them to take on the dive bars of America. It’s enough to kick your ass down to self-doubt and sorrow. It’s also enough to fulfill your life more than you could ever expect.

The music throughout the movie, written by Adam Ezra, was a beautiful soundtrack to the simplicity and charm that was nicely executed by both Hagner and Russell. I didn’t expect his voice to sound as raw and sexy as it did. But the rough depth in his voice mixed with the warm and toasty sound of Hagner’s created a lovely duality that the film encapsulated.

Written by Annie Paul 

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL DEBUTS THE AMBITIOUS AND EXPLOSIVE “THE BOMB”
April 18, 2016 10:22 am

April 13th marked the very first day of 2016’s Tribeca Film Festival. An iconic display of visual art, this year’s screenings include some pretty ambitious entries, as well as various directorial debuts from talented, pioneering women like Katie Holmes, Leyla Bouzid and Rachel Tunnard. One woman in particular however, is truly setting the bar at a uniquely high caliber.

Defined by filmmaker Smriti Keshari as “contained chaos,” The Bomb is a fiery immersion into the uncomfortable, yet relevant reality of nuclear weapons. This media installation will include a 360° display of a combination of film footage and animation created by Stanley Donwood projected on eight massive floor-to-ceiling screens from United Visual Artists. Meanwhile, The Acid will accompany the movie with a live performance to stimulate energy and force of the nuclear subject.

Created by Eric Schlosser (writer/director of Fast Food Nation) and Smriti Keshari (Food Chains), the film is expected to be a truly emotional experience for those who hold any knowledge of the stigmatized relationship between nuclear engineering and the countries involved (or rumored to be involved) with it.

The audience will experience a recreation of nuclear testing and attacks while being immersed in the cultural and political implications of the powerful man-made technology. And the bomb couldn’t be more timely. There are currently nine nations that have stockpiles of more than 15,000 nuclear weapons; many of those weapons are far more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. Tribeca Film Fest 

This screening will conclude Tribeca’s Film Fest’s Interactive and Experiential portion on April 23rd and 24th at 7PM and 10PM both nights. Preceding will be a panel by the creators of the film and actor and advocate for nuclear non-proliferation Michael Doulas. Buy tickets here

Written by Annie Paul 

TOP 5 INDIE FILM SOUNDTRACKS
November 17, 2015 8:00 am

No good movies out in theaters? Looking for something not so “popular on Netflix” to stream tonight? We’ve compiled our 5 Favorite Indie Movie Soundtracks below for your viewing (and listening) pleasure.

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Cruel Intentions– a 90s staple starring young Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar and and Ryan Phillipe, this film’s soundtrack has every mood and all your favorites. Highlights include Blur’s “Coffee & TV,” Counting Crow’s “Colorblind” and The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”

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High Fidelity- This John Cusack movie is LITERALLY all about music; an inside look at the protagonists past relationships one soundtrack at a time. A must-see for all new couples looking for something cute and not-so-basic to watch. Highlights are “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” by The Velvet Underground, “Cold Blooded Old Times” by Smog, “Ev’robody’s Gonna Be Happy” by The Kinks and Jack Black, actually being funny.

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Blue Valentine- Who can resist Ryan Gosling, especially in this heart wrenching indie classic? The soundtrack consists of mainly instrumental releases of previously existing Grizzly Bear songs, including “Lullabye,” “I Live With You” and “Easier.” Highlights include Ryan Gosling playing ukulele and singing “You Always Hurt The One You Love.”

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KIDS- The intentionally provocative film (with a young Rosario Dawson!) is all about kids taking drugs and having underage sex in a grunge-era Manhattan. It’s realness is cringe-worthy, but “Good Morning Captain” by Slint and “Jenny’s Theme” by The Folk Implosion provide the perfect poetic backdrop.

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Pretty In Pink- Best soundtrack. Best fashion. Best cast. The soundtrack is impossible to pick favorites from, but highlights are “If You Leave” -Orchestral Manoeuvers, “Do Wot You Do”- INXS and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths. 

Written by Alessandra Licul 

ALEXA CHUNG’S FASHION APP, VILLOID
October 18, 2015 6:51 pm

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Alexa Chung’s new app Villoid gives us the best of Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and online shopping all in one. Whether you love to hate her or hate to love her, Miss Chung’s new app delivers us an online store unlike any other.

User’s can follow their favorite brands (Burberry, ACNE, ASOS, Chloe), and others much like Instagram. You can then post images of clothes, products or looks (think of the Tumblr reblog) to “style boards.” Here, you can brainstorm different ideas, get inspired and build up your personal profile. Conveniently enough, the app lets you buy the clothes directly in a hassle-free “buy” feature.

“It” girl Alexa Chung is clearly progressing into the world of business and e-commerce after the release of her book in 2013. She recently signed off on Instagram as “Alexa Zuckerburg-Chung” and we can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us!

Written by Alessandra Licul 

4 Of Many Strong Musical Women With Businesses
October 2, 2015 12:08 am

As I came above ground on the B train to Brooklyn, I flipped through episodes of NPR’s All Songs Considered to see if there was anything I could quickly download before we ducked back underground.

The fan-girl in me saw the name Sharon Van Etten and immediately clicked “download.” I watched as the remaining two megabytes of space on my phone was eaten up by what I prayed would last through the remainder of my commute. The title of the episode “All Songs + 1: Sharon Van Etten Interviews Low’s Mimi Parker.

What I expected: a captivating conversation between two of my favorite musicians out there, Singer-Songwriter Sharon Van Etten and Indie-Rock veteran Mimi Parker (drummer and vocalist of the band Low). What I did not expect: the topic of conversation to be “how to balance being a musician and a mother.”

Typically, I roll my eyes at this kind of piece. You don’t see male rock-stars being hounded by the media with questions like “who takes care of your kids while you’re on the road?” or “what’s it like being away from your child for months at a time?” God forbid the father stay home and care for his child while the mother went out and earned a living.

But as I listened, I was slapped in the face with the privilege of my youth and child-less status. This wasn’t the media forcing two women in the workforce to confine their conversation to the subject of motherhood. No, here was Van Etten vulnerably and honestly confessing her deep fear of subjecting her child to the permanent stain of parental inadequacy. Here was a woman, anxiously anticipating her biological clock as it approaches the station. Any strong woman in her position would have asked for any words of wisdom that could potentially help make the most difficult decision of her life – pursue her dreams and give up on having a child or have a child and risk losing her entire career. Is it possible to do both?

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Parker’s band Low came up in the 90s when album sales were huge. Hell, Parker could afford a nanny to accompany them on tour and watch the kids while she soundchecked, performed, did press shots, signings, meet and greets, etc. Plus, Parker’s husband was also in the band which made touring a happy family affair. Van Etten, admittedly, couldn’t afford that kind of help. In fact, she even mentioned needing to pick up a second form of income to provide for her family. A famous musician with a day job… is Yuppie the new rock and roll?

It’s a shame. Whether we like it or not, today’s music artist has to be more than her moniker. She must be a shrewd businesswoman, a marketing guru, a self-promoter, an entrepreneur. She needs to know not only how to make music but also how to have her music make her money.

The following female indie musicians have successfully been able to strike that balance between art and industry, integrating their creative eye with their business acumen. We are choosing to focus on indie musicians because they have been able to engage with the business side of things without the massive corporate backing and brand partnerships that a major label provides. We are focusing on women because as tough as it is for dudes to make it in this industry, imagine how hard it is to overcome the same obstacles as the dudes plus the added weight of both sexism and/or carrying a child to term.

So take a peek into the side-endeavors of just a few of your favorite female indie rockers and allow yourself to become inspired by their creativity and their work ethic. I know I am.

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Courtney Barnett – Breakout indie rocker of 2015, Courtney Barnett captured the hearts of millions with her neo-Dylan talk-singing, psychedelic melodies, and proto-punk electric guitar riffs. But did you know she also co-founded Milk! Records with her girlfriend, Jen Cloher and their friends. Their website outlines how they are an “independent label where you can buy direct from the artist.” They also “occasionally curate special events, compilations, split 7” vinyl releases and artist designed t-shirts and curios from friends and artists we love.” A group of friends self-releasing their own material and selling it to a DIY-hungry audience sounds like the dream to me.

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Zooey Deschanel – You may think I’m going to talk about her highly lucrative career as an actress, but I’m not. Not only is Zooey a fabulous musician and infectious actress, but she also founded hellogiggles, a “positive online community for women (although men are always welcome!) covering DIY and crafting projects, beauty, friendship, sex & relationships, tips on savvy and stylish living meant to inspire a smile.” Sure that sounds like the quirk-heavy Zooey that polarizes many women across the country, but you can’t really argue with the numbers and with how much traffic her site gets, that’s one hell of a side-gig.

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Amanda Palmer – You may know her as lead singer of The Dresden Dolls. You may know her from her infamous kickstarter campaign which raised nearly 1.2 million dollars. Or perhaps you know her from the countless controversies she has encountered like her publicized dispute with Roadrunner Records or her Poem for Dzhokkar. Palmer has captured our attention over the years for countless reasons, one of which she turned into a book. Following the success of her highly viewed Ted Talk special “The Art of Asking,” Palmer turned her speech into a book with the same title. The book garnered mixed reviews but sure enough it climbed its way onto the New York Times bestsellers list. Not bad for a first time author.

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Brittany Howard – Lead singer and guitarist of the acclaimed Alabama Shakes recently announced her side-project, Thunderbitch. Thunderbitch is the old-school rock outlet for a collective of seasoned acts including Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks. Their website bio reads “Thunderbitch. Rock ‘n’ Roll. The end.” Thunderbitch is not tied to any known label (indie or otherwise) and seems to be running the whole operation on its own. While she’s left me with more questions than I’d like, I’m definitely stoked to see what this side-endeavor evolves into.

 

EX MACHINA: MUSIC AND TECHNOLOGY, INVERTED
June 7, 2015 3:48 pm

WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

“Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?”  -Ava

Going into Ex Machina, I expected a soundtrack reminiscent of The Matrix: something gritty and electronic, with beeps and boops and screeching computer noise. What I got was far closer to Her than The Matrix, with melodic textures emphasizing a decidedly human view of technology and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Cold, reverberant soundscapes dominate the film, especially scenes involving the humans Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) and Nathan (Oscar Isaac). However, once the artificially intelligent Ava (Alicia Vikander) enters the picture, the soundtrack reflects a distinctly organic quality. The first guitar is introduced just as Caleb sees Ava from afar. Cellos erupt when we first meet Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), Nathan’s servant and AI prototype. Scenes of nature, however, are peppered with pulsating synths and digital noise. This inversion of humanity and technology permeates the film and gives it its distinctive, otherworldly quality. 

Take, for example, the many sessions Caleb enjoys with Ava, under Nathan’s watchful eyes. A pulsating, heartbeat-esque bass synth enhances each of these intimate moments, helping to underline Ava’s inherent humanity, one of the central themes of the film. Her robotic body belies her very human personality, and the music furthers this contradiction. As Caleb (and the audience) try to decipher and define Ava’s unique reality, our preconceptions are consistently undermined by the instrumentation and mood of the soundtrack.

Ex-Machina the movie

There is one scene in which human characters interact with “human” music, but the effect is notably uncomfortable; Caleb and Kyoko have a bizarre interaction in which Kyoko tries to initiate sex with Caleb, only to have Nathan interrupt. To Caleb’s increasing discomfort, Nathan and Kyoko begin a loosely coordinated dance, complete with loud, overwhelmingly out-of-place disco music. The apparent humanity of the music would be the only outlier of the human/AI inversion-dynamic of the film, were it not for the audience’s natural empathy toward Caleb, and our corresponding feeling of discomfort. 

The intersection of Ava’s artificial intelligence and her humanity lies in her sexuality, which begins as a seemingly innocent byproduct of AI and develops into an invaluable tool at her disposal. At first, these scenes are notably absent of music; Caleb and Nathan discuss the purpose of sex and attraction in a moment of quiet relief. When Caleb and Ava do eventually kiss (during a poorly explained dreamlike fantasy), guitars suddenly burst through quiet ambient synths. As Ava learns how to control her sexuality, the corresponding analog sounds turn more and more digital, so at the final climax when Ava covers herself in synthetic skin and completes her attempt at becoming human, the audience is finally blasted with the computerized, bit-crushed noise that I had expected to hear throughout the film. The effect is powerful, and the inverted relationship between human identity and computerized music reaches its conclusion. 

Ex-Machina the movie

While the technology behind artificial intelligence is central to the film, the more salient point is the process behind Ava’s seamless interaction with humanity. Nathan is the founder and CEO of “Bluebook,” an obvious allegory to Google, and as such he holds an enormous wealth of information at his fingertips. In order to give Ava as much information to work from as possible, Nathan reveals that he has hacked into all the world’s search engine data—yes this is illegal, he says, but the phone companies can’t call him out without revealing that they, too, are illegally monitoring citizens’ private conversations. Apparently this film takes place in an alternate, Edward Snowden-less universe, but the point remains that megadata is very powerful, and a company’s ability to harness this power dictates its ability to grow and develop its technology. Nathan explains that while owning a search engine provides access to what people think, the real treasure is determining how people think, and that with the right analysis of humanity’s megadata we can recreate the human brain, and thus create artificial intelligence.

Whether this is a good idea remains to be seen.

Ex-Machina the movie